In most states, it is legal to drive a backhoe on the road. There are varying regulations regarding driving farm equipment on the road (e.g. staying off highways, using flashers, or putting up a Slow Moving Vehicle sign), but generally you can drive a backhoe from one farm or work site to another via road.
That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to do it. Not only does such a large vehicle pose danger to other drivers on the road, driving a backhoe on tarmac is uncomfortable.
At top speed, backhoes generate a lot of bounce. The lack of suspension on most models makes it tiring to drive one even over short distances. They are also slow.
The easiest, fastest, and safest way to transport a backhoe is on a trailer.
While hauling a backhoe on a trailer is better, it also has its own safety risks to the driver, road users, and the equipment. You need to make sure you load the backhoe properly, and tie it down securely.
What You'll Learn Today
What Kind of Trailer Should I Use to Transport a Backhoe?
Before you even get to loading and securing the backhoe, you need to make sure you have the right kind of trailer.
Check that it is the right length and width to ensure the backhoe will fit. Most importantly, check the load capacity of the trailer. It should be significantly higher than the weight of the backhoe.
You also need to take into account the weight of the trailer. Check that the combined weight of the backhoe and the trailer does not exceed the 80,000 pound federal limit for the Interstate system.
Taking all these into consideration, you have three trailer options to choose from: a flatbed trailer, a step deck trailer, and a removable gooseneck (RGN) trailer.
A flatbed trailer is the cheapest option, and the best one for small to midsize backhoes. Double check the height your backhoe will sit at when loaded since flatbed trailers tend to be higher off the ground compared to other types of trailers.
Another issue with flatbed trailers is that they don’t have a ramp, so you cannot drive the backhoe onto the bed. You’ll need access to a loading dock to load the backhoe onto the trailer.
A step deck trailer is perfect for larger backhoes, and offers the option of driving the backhoe onto the bed. Step deck trailers are also lower, giving you more height to work with before you hit the legal road limit.
The only potential issue you may face with a step deck trailer is the steep ramp. Depending on the size and clearance of your backhoe, you may not be able to drive it up the ramp.
For the largest and heaviest backhoes, an RGN trailer is the best. The bed sits even lower, allowing you to carry taller backhoes without exceeding the legal freight height limit.
Note: We’ve only been talking about the trailer, but the kind of truck pulling the trailer matters, too. Make sure its towing capacity can handle the weight of the trailer and backhoe.
How to Load a Backhoe Onto a Trailer?
Accidents can happen even before you hit the road with the trailer. Improperly loading the backhoe onto the trailer can create an imbalance, causing the trailer or the backhoe to tip.
If you have a flat bed trailer, do not attempt some of the DIY loading methods we’ve seen in some YouTube videos. Either find a nearby loading dock, or get a trailer with a ramp.
For trailers with a ramp, here’s a step by step process for safely loading a backhoe.
- Prepare the loading site and the loading team. This includes levelling the ground if necessary, clearing any obstructions, wearing protective gear, and assigning duties to each team member (backhoe driver, spotter, and so on).
- Navigate the trailer to the right spot, and park the truck. Secure the front and rear wheels of the trailer using blocks.
- Do a final check of the trailer and truck. Check the tires, brakes, hydraulic systems and other crucial components.
- Lower the trailer ramp. Make sure both the trailer and ramp are free of any hazards such as snow, dirt, oil or grease. These can affect the wheel traction of the backhoe and create a safety hazard.
- Lower the front loader of the backhoe, and raise the rear boom to lift the bucket. Now slowly and carefully drive the backhoe onto the trailer, making sure you stick to the center of the trailer.
- Lower the backhoe’s bucket until it’s sitting on the bed of the trailer.
- Check that the backhoe has been properly loaded onto the trailer. Its weight should be distributed evenly across the axles to ensure stability when driving.
How to Tie Down a Backhoe on a Trailer?
The next step is to secure the backhoe such that it doesn’t move during transportation.
The standard in most states is to have at least four tie down points for freight that weighs more than 10,000lbs.
You’ll also need another two tie down points to secure the bucket, for a total of six tie downs.
You’ll need heavy duty chains and binders that can withstand the weight of the backhoe. The load limit of all the six tie downs should be equal to at least 50% of the weight of the backhoe.
The other crucial step is to identify the right tie down points on the backhoe. These will usually be indicated.
Passing chains through the wrong areas of the backhoe could cause damage to components such as cylinders and hydraulic hoses.
Once you identify the proper tie down points, pass the chains through them and tie them to the trailer’s attachments.
The chains should be secured tightly, at a 45-degree angle and without any slack. The backhoe should not move or bounce at all during hauling.
How to Safely Transport a Backhoe on a Trailer?
With the backhoe loaded and secured on the trailer, it’s time to hit the road.
Before you do, however, there’s lots of preparation and planning you need to do.
The first step is to ensure you are not breaching any local or federal laws regarding load height and width.
Next, check if you need to apply for any transportation permit. It may be necessary if the load is deemed oversize as per the local laws.
You’ll also likely need to outfit the trailer and truck with flashing lights and warning signs.
Don’t forget to check whether there are any local restrictions on which roads you can use and what time heavy equipment can be hauled. In some states and regions, heavy equipment can only be transported during the day.
Once everything checks out legally, the next step is to plan your route. You want a route that’s as straight as possible with minimal turns, stops, overpasses and bridges.
But it’s highly likely you’ll have to deal with some of these features, so plan accordingly. Make sure there are no low bridges or overpasses that you might hit, or terrain that’s too steep or winding for such a heavy load.
Do a final check on the trailer and load, then move out.
How Often Should You Inspect on The Trailer Load?
Unless you are transporting the backhoe over a short distance, it is essential to regularly stop and inspect the load to make sure it is still secure.
Inspect it once over the initial 50 miles. After that, inspect it every 3 hours or 150 miles. If you plan a driver change, the new driver should carry out a full inspection.
How to Unload a Backhoe from a Trailer?
The final step is to unload the backhoe. Don’t be in a rush to get it over with – unloading heavy equipment presents just as many hazards as loading.
Inspect the unloading site and, if necessary, level and clear it. Make sure personnel and other people around the area have been notified of the unloading and are a safe distance away.
As you did during the loading process, assign duties to your team including a driver and spotter.
Park the truck at the right spot and inspect the trailer and backhoe.
Why bother inspecting it when you’ve already arrived?
If there’s damage to the trailer, or the backhoe has shifted its position during the drive, you’ll need to reassess your unloading protocol.
If everything looks good, loosen and remove the tie downs, let down the ramp and carefully back the backhoe out of the trailer. Remember to raise the boom before you drive the backhoe down the ramp.
With the backhoe on the ground, check that it’s in good condition. Pay careful attention around the tie down points for any damage the chains may have caused.
Tip: Throughout the loading, transportation, and unloading process, it is a good idea to document everything you do including safety measures. This can protect you against liability in case of anything and provide safety documentation for future use.